Horizons: an alternative approach


Horizons front entrance. Photo: Owen Jolly

Owen Jolly, Staff Writer

There are around 30 students in the Horizons system and each student has Principal Bobby Riley’s personal phone number.  They are instructed to call or text him for any reason– school related or personal.

Horizons is a small, alternative high school that works with students who, among other things, may benefit from a smaller, in-person environment with a more individualized curriculum. Students are referred to Horizons by either Burlington High School counselors or their 504 case manager.

Anna Sanborn ‘23 has been attending Horizons since the beginning of this year. Sanborn feels the school is negatively perceived by other students. 

“I think there’s sort of a misconception,” Sanborn said. “If people know what Horizons is, they think that we’re bad students, which is not actually true. We are, you know, just as intelligent as anyone else, but we just need a different kind of support.” 

Located off  North Ave, Horizons is housed in a small brick building next to St. Mark’s Catholic Church. 

Sign outside Horizons. Photo: Owen Jolly.

“For me [Horizons] has been a really positive experience,” Sanborn said. “I didn’t have a very good experience at BHS. The traditional classroom wasn’t really working for me.” 

Riley started his position as Principal of Horizons back in 2019. 

“It just really speaks to me to work for students in crisis or that are having some mental health or social emotional learning challenges,” Riley said. “I just feel like that is really good work.” 

Riley became interested in Horizons after his oldest daughter attended her junior and senior years of high school there. 

“She was grappling with anxiety, sort of crippling anxiety and depression,” Riley said. “And when that takes over, it’s really challenging to engage in school and especially in a much larger system.” 

It really creates an opportunity to think differently about what you’re capable of,

— Horizon's Principal Bobby Riley


Horizons was a success story for Riley’s daughter, helping her to grapple with some of her mental health issues. 

“Pretty quickly after arriving there, her inability to get to school or that overwhelmed feeling about going to school just dissipated quite quickly,” Riley said.

Sanborn has seen herself and many of her peers grow as students and people since entering Horizons.

“I know people who used to have a lot of attendance issues who now come to school almost every day,” Sanborn said. “I know people whose grades were really struggling and now that they’re at [Horizons], they are working really hard.” 

Riley shared that Horizons can be incredibly rewarding for students. 

“It really creates an opportunity to think differently about what you’re capable of and sort of take some pride and agency in how you can change when things aren’t great,” Riley said. 

UPDATE 05/03/22:  This article has been edited to better reflect the role and purpose of Horizons.